Nothing says "romance" like Bark At The Moon-era Ozzy Osbourne
Fairy tales are way scarier than we realize. We generally think of the cute, cuddly Disney versions when talking about stories like Snow White, Cinderella, and Peter Pan. If you go back and read original stories, such as the Grimm Fairytales, you'll find out that these stories were extremely violent and perverse. Beloved characters have terrible fates filled with enough torture and pain to make even the most ardent horror fan blush. Maybe it's our preconceived notion of fairy tales, but these stories would make a great horror movie, right? Right?!
Meridian (also known as Meridian: Kiss Of The Beast) is a 1990 horror/romance movie produced and directed by Charles Band (Puppet Master, Evil Bong). The film stars Sherilynn Fenn (Twin Peaks, Fatal Instinct) as Catherine Bomarzini. After her father's death, Catherine inherits her family's castle in Italy. Excited by her new home, Catherine invites her friend Gina (Charlie Spradling) to join her at the castle. Gina is tasked with restoring a 15th century painting recently donated to a church, but puts it off in favor of going to the castle. The women come across a traveling sideshow outside the castle gates where Catherine begins to feel a strong connection with a masked performer. Gina invites the head magician Lawrence (Malcolm Jamieson, Victor Victoria, Howards' Way) and the rest of the troupe back to the castle for dinner. Both women are drugged with Gina being raped by Lawrence. Catherine is raped by the masked man, who turns out to be Lawrence's twin brother Oliver. He tries to be romantic, but really, it's rape. During the act, Oliver turns into a monstrous beast. The next day, Catherine begins to see a ghost of a murdered girl in the castle. Her servant, Martha, explains that the girl she thinks she is seeing may be Catherine's aunt who had been killed due to a curse put on the family in the 15th century. The curse involves the members of the troupe the women encountered the day before. Catherine begins to dream of the beast and starts to fall in love with him, believing that he is a tragic figure. At the same time, Gina discovers the painting she is restoring is Catherine's castle, and two figures in the painting resemble her and Oliver. Will Catherine be able to free herself and Oliver from their curse?
When a man-beast loves a woman, can't keep his paws on anything else
The movie is inspired by the Beauty And The Beast fairytale though I don't recall the Disney version having so much nudity and molestation. I have to assume they were trying to build off of the 1987 “Beauty And The Beast” television series starring Linda Hamilton and Ron Perlman. The movie tries to be romantic or erotic, but none of that really makes sense because the main character is drugged and raped by some sort of man-beast. One does not build an everlasting loving relationship by forcing oneself upon another. One also does not create an entertaining movie by having this scene last over 10 minutes long! It's bad enough that you want to have this ridiculous supernatural beast-rape scene in your movie, but why do you have to make the audience suffer through what can only be described as the extended director's cut version? There is nothing sexy or erotic about it and anyone that thinks so should seek professional help. The story itself is insultingly ridiculous filled with implausible actions and inexplicable scenes. If my summary of the movie confused you, well, it confused me too. Why would someone invite a random group of circus performers to their castle for dinner? Why would you not go to the police? What does this have to do with a ghost that shows up half-way through the movie? Why the hell does Catherine fall in love with the beast that raped her? WHY? WHY? WHY?
The acting throughout Meridian ranges from balsam to redwood in terms of woodeness. I can't really blame the actors that much because when you have such a terrible story, there's only so much you can do. Phil Fondacaro (Land Of The Dead, Bordello Of Blood), a Full Moon Productions staple, does have a small role and he's enjoyable in just about anything. The makeup on the beast makes it look like if the Wolfman and Jocelyn Wildenstein (google her) had a baby. The movie is thankfully short because I was begging for this movie to end quickly. If there is one redeeming value to the movie, it's the music. The heavily synthesized music is delightfully cheesy and reminiscent of 80's horror movies. Beyond that, Meridian has almost nothing going for it.
Meridian is the visual equivalent of a “face palm”. It is certainly not scary and by no means romantic unless you also consider “The Last House Of The Left” a romantic movie. The story is absurd with character motivation summed up as “just because”. The plot devices don't work and the extended rape scenes, while not graphic, are still incredibly disturbing. It's ridiculous that the romance between Catherine and Oliver/The Beast is based on her being drugged and taken advantage of. This is either extremely lazy writing or extremely disturbed writing. I supposed I shouldn't be surprised considering Charles Band has been behind such “classics” as Decadent Evil, Cryptz, and Terrorvision. Any goodwill he had built from Puppet Master and Re-Animator has been gone for a long time. While the basic idea of making Beauty And The Beast into a horror movie is interesting and bold, Meridian fails in just about every aspect.